Children's Hospital Colorado

Pediatric Ventricular Assist Device

We are one of the largest programs in the country treating patients with heart problems from before birth through adulthood, with exceptional outcomes.

Best Children's Hospital by U.S. News & World Report Cardiology 2021-2 Badge


What is a pediatric ventricular assist device?

If your child’s heart is too weak or damaged to pump blood through the body, a ventricular assist device (VAD) can help.

The heart has two chambers, or ventricles. The VAD has tubes that connect to the right ventricle and left ventricle. The device, controlled by a computer and power unit at the bedside, mechanically pumps blood to support your child’s heart function.

A VAD is not a permanent solution for children with heart failure. We use the device to help your child stay healthy while they wait for a heart transplant.

What to expect if your child needs a VAD

It can take some time to find a perfect match for a heart transplant donor. That’s why our heart transplant specialists use VADs. This procedure provides more time for your child while they are waiting a matching donor and it helps keep them healthy enough so that they will be ready for transplant surgery when a donor does become available.

The VAD, unlike extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), can be used as a long-term option for patients with heart failure. ECMO is used as a rescue option for patients and is usually limited to less than 10 days of use. The VAD extends the time a child can wait for a transplant, and it can give the heart time to recover from certain acquired heart diseases like myocarditis.

During the operation, our expert pediatric heart surgeons insert and connect the VAD. Your child will remain in the hospital until they are strong enough to return home or until a heart is ready for transplant.

What are the different types of VADs?

The implantable VAD used at Children’s Colorado is the HeartMate 3. Children and teenagers with a HeartMate 3 can often leave the hospital with the VAD and await heart transplantation from home.

The VADs available for infants and young children come in several sizes to accommodate the child’s size. These smaller pumps require the child to stay in the hospital until the VAD is removed.

VADs for infants and small children include:

  • Berlin Heart: Used if the wait for a heart transplant is more than three weeks.
  • Centrimag: Used when the wait time is approximately two to three weeks.
  • Pendimag: Used when the wait time is approximately two to three weeks.

Why choose us for a pediatric VAD? 

Hearing that your child’s heart is failing can be frightening. Your child will receive the best possible care at Children’s Colorado. Our Heart Institute is nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report. We are a national leader in pediatric heart surgeries — including VAD and heart transplant — and our outcomes are among the best in the country.

We use VADs as a bridge to a heart transplant and when the time is ready for a heart transplant, we also have a top heart transplant team. Our 1-year and 3-year survival rates for heart transplant recipients consistently beat the national average.

Because we are a children’s hospital, every specialist that your child sees, from our nurses to our surgeons, have specialized pediatric training. Our heart transplant program includes not only world-class surgeons, but also social workers and child life specialists who care for your child’s emotional well-being and well as your family’s.

Want to learn more about heart transplants?

Get answers to frequently asked questions about pediatric heart transplantation.